The song was written by Roy Brown and originally released in 1947 as ‘Good Rocking Tonight’. Although it pre-dated the rock ‘n’ roll era, its style and lyrics anticipated the genre.
‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ was the second single released by Elvis Presley on Sun Records. It was this version that McCartney used as the basis of his 1991 recording.
This goes right back, it’s one of the pre-pubescent ones. I never really learned the words to it and don’t even like it when I get the words, they spoil it for me. It’s a memory thing, a nostalgia trip, from the days when I wanted to sound like Elvis. I always wanted to sing like Elvis, like a million other kids, then I found my own voice in the middle of Elvis and Little Richard. There I was, sandwiched. And ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ is just a nice little rocker, the Elvis version. I always liked the line ‘Meet me behind the new barn’. Now, being a farmer, it’s even more amusing. You never saw a barn in Liverpool, now I’ve got one! It was nice to think of those country guys meeting girls behind the barn, having dances in the hay. It was part of a culture we felt was very romantic. I also liked the line ‘Do you no harm’ – C&W is very weird: the fact that she might be thinking that her boyfriend might do her harm, behind a barn: it’s a very weird scenario. So it fired our imagination, all those things we couldn’t understand.
Beatles song titles were always great. You totally remember the song by the title – they just work, they were like film titles, which is why people still use them for articles, films and TV. And John and I got it from looking at America. ‘Quarter To Three’ by US Bonds was the big one: we used to think, how can he get a song out of that? Chuck Berry was great like that, too, I really love his poetry. ‘Motorvatin” – very hard to find an English equivalent to that. Alabama. Georgia. That’s why I was able to put Georgia into ‘Back In The USSR’, because there are certain words that just make it. Chuck Berry was full of them – ‘Brown-Eyed Handsome Man’, just so clever. It comes naturally to black writers, like rap. It’s very genuine.
Club Sandwich, Summer 1991
McCartney also rehearsed the song prior to the Tug Of War sessions in October 1980, performing it in a medley with ‘Shake, Rattle And Roll’.
It was also played during his May-June 1991 European tour of small European venues, which McCartney undertook after the success of MTV Unplugged.
‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’ returned to McCartney’s setlist for his 1993 New World Tour. A recording from 15 June in Charlotte, NC, can be heard on Paul Is Live.